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EHR Benefit – Eligibility for Pay-for-Performance

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It’s time for the next installment in my series of posts looking at the long list of EHR benefits.

Eligibility for Pay-for-Performance
I think that this is a really scary topic for most doctors. It’s not that a doctor is afraid of being reimbursed for the way they perform. The problem with pay for performance (ACO if you prefer) is that we have no idea what that’s really going to look like. The unknown is scary and a real problem. A change as dramatic from fee for service to pay for performance is an enormous shift and we still have very little idea how that shift is going to happen.

However, as one person told me, “That train (the shift to pay for performance) has already left the station.” In fact, I was talking with the former CEO of a major EMR vendor and he suggested that the shift is going to happen a lot faster than most of us realize. If we assume that this shift is going to happen, then doctors and healthcare better be prepared.

I believe having an EMR will be the only way a clinic can participate in pay for performance.

I make this assertion, because how else are payers going to measure your performance if they don’t have the data on how you’re performing? I’ve never thought of this before, but the EMR could become the performance measurement tool for doctors. Trying to flintstone your performance in a paper world is just not going to happen. The data collected in an EMR (and possibly other software) is going to drive the performance metrics which will drive the payments.

Think about what that means to a clinic. If you don’t have an EMR, you will miss out on the pay for performance payments.

I imagine many that read this will discount the shift that’s going to happen. That’s a fair position to take, but one that I think will come back to bite you. If the shift in payments doesn’t happen, then you won’t have to worry. However, if the shift to pay for performance has left the station, then you’re going to be at a tremendous disadvantage.

Healthcare data is going to drive a lot of things in the future of healthcare. Pay for performance is one of those things. Physicians who don’t have that data available in an EMR or other electronic format are going to face stiff challenges.

May 9, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

HIE, ACOs Are the ‘Fast-Moving Train’ of Health Reform

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Healthcare and health IT are plagued by conundrums. Providers long have been the ones asked to make hefty investments in EMRs and other IT systems to help remove costs from the healthcare system, but payers and plan sponsors tend to enjoy most of the financial benefits. Clinicians wish their organizations would share data with others, but those in the executive suite have been reluctant to cooperate with competitors for fear of losing revenue. And, let’s face it, medical errors can be profitable if a routine procedure turns into an expensive inpatient admission.

Portions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are intended to address these problems by providing financial incentives for “meaningful use” of EMRs (including health information exchange) and by encouraging the creation of Accountable Care Organizations

I’m just back from the Institute for Health Technology Transformation health IT summit in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where I moderated panels on how health IT underpins ACOs and how business intelligence can create a framework for health information exchange.

The panelists did great job of articulating some of these conundrums and strategies to overcome them, but none better than Kevin Maher, director of clinical innovations for Horizon Healthcare Innovations, a new affiliate of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey tasked with testing new care models, and Victor Freeman, M.D., quality director in the Health Resources and Services Administration‘s Office of Health IT and Quality.

The patient-centered medical home is a great idea for managing care, promoting prevention and, ultimately reducing costs. “We view the base of the ACO as the patient-centered medical home,” Maher said. But what exactly does an ACO look like? “An ACO is like a unicorn,” Maher said. “We can all describe it, but we’ve never seen one.”

He noted that Horizon has started paying some physicians a care coordination fee to manage populations that potentially could add $60,000 or more to a doctor’s annual income. But there are plenty of factors outside a physicians’ control.

“Potentially the No. 1 focal point of a patient-centered medical home or an ACO is patient behavior,” Maher said. A doctor can’t force a patient to exercise more, quit smoking or get a mammogram or PSA test. There’s pay-for-performance for doctors, but what about paying for patient performance?

In January 2012, Horizon will launch a pilot to offer incentives to members who get recommended tests and choose providers that meet the health plan’s quality standards. That’s right, the Blues plan in New Jersey will pay people to go to the doctor and to make informed choices about which doctors they see. (“Everyone says she’s a great doctor” won’t cut it as an informed choice anymore.)

Freeman called the Horizon experiment “P4P that makes sense.”

Let’s just hope the technology can support making the right choices. “People in government get more involved in quality measurement, not necessarily quality,” Freeman said. Incentive programs these days still tend to be more pay-for-reporting than pay-for-quality, and the technology hasn’t fully matured in that area.

“EMRs were designed for billing, not quality reporting,” noted Freeman, who has a background in public and population health. Information often isn’t stored in discrete form, such as with images generated by specialists flagged as being abnormal, so even with HIE, it’s hard for primary care physicians to identify patients who might be candidates for early interventions before they actually exhibit symptoms of a disease.

“My biggest interest in HIE is how clinicians communicate with each other,” Freeman said.

But is the technology ready to help them do so? “HIE now reminds me of what EMRs were five years ago,” said another panelist, Bruce Metz, Ph.D., newly hired senior VP and CIO at the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts. It’s viewed as an IT project that’s not necessarily linked to a business or clinical strategy. “You can’t force the technology to mature that fast,” he added.

And so the ride continues on what Metz called “a fast-moving train.” Have we even had time to see if the right people are on board?

May 12, 2011 I Written By

Paying Doctors for Quality

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I recently was listening to a doctor about the reimbursement movement that’s happening in healthcare towards paying for quality instead of procedures (pay for performance or other names). He said, “It’s the right direction, but we need more research on how to measure the quality of a doctor.” Then another doctor colleague said, “In fact, in many cases the outcome that you want is that NOTHING happens. It’s harder to measure and pay nothing.”

I must admit that I’m far from an expert on pay for performance and other possible changes to physician reimbursement, but I found these two comments really insightful. I think they do a good job of describing the challenge of paying doctors based on performance is going to have in the future.

One of the major challenges is with the time needed to measure the performance before you pay the doctor. Often you can’t judge the performance until months later and reimbursement months later isn’t a good motivational model.

One thing seems clear to me about pay for performance. We’ll never even be able to really consider going to a pay for performance model without broad EMR adoption. The data we’ll need to change the reimbursement model will require the data that an EMR software can produce.

I’d love to hear what other challenges people see with the pay for performance model of reimbursement.

October 25, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.